Spirit of Wood

by Shantal

There on the walls and the tables below
lay some pieces of wood with stories waiting to unfold.
Creative destruction – a metaphor for life –
out from Mother Nature’s bounty
Spirit’s wisdom springs to life.

Etching and sketching with a wood-burning pen
or skimming the surface with a sharpened steel blade,
the artist dives in:
sculpting and slicing the wormholes and knots
as crumbles of dust now fall from the bough,
and wooden chips tumble and roll
all over the carver’s floor.
Now polished and stained,
they bring a spark to the bark.

Wet drops of paint fall like glistening rain;
the Tree of Life reveals its divine light.
Each pattern of grain marks the passage of time
whispering echoes of “all that lives”
and memories of “all that dies.”

Each piece makes known
the artist’s soul:
the wood absorbs
her essence, his qi –
entwined with the vines,
creative lights
emerge from life.

A whittler sits on a sunlit porch:
from dusk until dawn,
he carves away
creating a grand piece
to set on display.

A pyrographer who loves the fragrant smell of burning wood
relaxes before a crackling, open flame
while she dances with her burning blade.
Smoky residue fills the air
as trailing wisps of smoke
envelop her in an aromatic cloak.

Reverential to the core,
she burns intimate portraits –
a sight to behold –
the artist unleashes her heart, her soul…

The wood and the artist now become one –
bound to the fire and the grounds of the earth.

The elements unite –
each one providing fuel for the other.
A rich bounty of resources
gifting us with nourishment and light –
foundations to build and the tools to write,
the air that we breathe and the food that we eat.

Divine sparks melt sacred bark:
interconnectedness is never-ending.
In this circle of life,
true harmony is unveiling.

Transformed by the fire,
we are renewed
by a glorious image
fashioned in wood.
Inseparable from nature and
freed by carved perfection,
we return and experience
our sacred connection.

Tales of Northwest Indians, Celtic goddesses riding horses,
a leopard, two lions, and some orcas by the shore…
A red-tailed hawk and a medicine box
in baltic birch, mahogany wood, or butternut squash.
Japanese Sumi-e and Zuni-styled art –
replications of ancient art.
Inspired creations waiting to be shared:
a master carver’s appreciation –
timeless art
etched with love
in nature’s care.

Abstract pieces, oily mixes, and waxy finishes;
Sanded edges and smoothed out branches:
a rich palette of colors using Easter egg dyes,
beauty of wood all soaked and dried.
Shiny patterns –
some bold and some dim –
the beautiful images appear to glide
across wooden logs and limbs.
The cinder blocks ignite a spark:
from fallen twigs and wooden chips,
these sacred roots now glow with pics.

Freely expressing one’s outlook on nature,
the woodcarver whittles the grain,
and the wood-burner works with the burnt remains.
A hobby, a passion, a profession for some:
a muse with a paintbrush or a soldering iron rod.

Inspirations come in droves:
there’s no shortage to the flow.
Blessed with visions and insights galore,
innovative concepts burst forth from the core.

Hypnotic dance of flames between the artist and her tools:
when all is stained and done,
his ego is gone.
The process has ended, and the artist lets go:
stylized creatures become accent decor
hoping they’re stored
inside your sacred home.

Elements of energy
in a constant state of flux –
interacting and boldly merging –
creative journeys bestow
an exhilarating rush.

Illusion of movement created in wood –
Divine spark etched in bark.
Timeless stories preserved for all time…
Spirit of wood:
Mother Nature carries
the artist’s heart.

“The Spirit of Wood” Art Exhibit, featuring exquisite artwork in wood and other media honoring the spiritual aspects of wood, will run April 22 – 30, 2010. This wonderful show includes the work of more than 10 local artists capturing the essence of trees, forests, nature spirits, and the relationship of wood to human life, as well as the spiritual meaning of wood in various cultures. The Opening Reception will be held on Thursday, April 22, 6 – 10 p.m. Singer-sound healer Louise Cloutier will present songs about wood that are channeled from the artwork itself, Sayre Vickers will give Rune readings, and MaryAnn Bennett Rosberg will give a presentation on the Celtic Ogham Tree Alphabet.

Artists who inspired the poem:

Sharon Bechtold

As a third generation artist, Sharon grew up around a variety of art materials, tools, and the encouragement that have been instrumental to her development. After completing studies in commercial art, fine art, and photography, Sharon worked as a graphic designer in the family business. Her oil painting, watercolors, and pyrographs have won numerous awards and have been represented by galleries throughout the Chicago area. Since 1988, she has taught art both at the adult and children’s levels. During the last nine years, she has devoted herself exclusively to Pyrography, developing her own unique style, based on classical art principles, in order to render a realistic image steeped in emotion. Her passion lies not only in creating art, but also in sharing what she learns and inspiring others to join her in the exciting journey that this art form provides.

Unlike most burning artists, Sharon works with the grain patterns of the wood using not only the movement of the grain but also wormholes, knots, and missing bark to enhance the image. Working primarily with two-dimensional pieces, it is Sharon’s goal to capture the Life Essence or Ki of the subject, as in the traditional Japanese art of Sumi-e. Her hope is that people will “come to realize that ideas are huge parts of any endeavor – be it art, government, or improving your personal life. The ideas always precede the work and the more ideas that come forth, the richer the tapestry that is produced.” Visit Sharon’s website at http://www.sharonbechtold.net.

John Henderson

An avid student of archeology and history, John draws much of his inspiration for his woodcarving art pieces from the many art and history books that fill his home, as well as from watching shows on the Discovery and History channels. When he finds an image he likes, he designs his own images in the chosen style in order to create a piece of art that is recognizable in origin of style, while also trying to be aware of the spirituality of the styles he’s working with. John enjoys creating stylized pieces of birds and other creatures and working with a multitude of styles such as Celtic, Greek, African, and Central and South American, as well as some abstract pieces from time to time, although the Native American style is among his favorites. John has been whittling since kindergarten: his first memories are of sitting on his grandfather’s front porch, where he joined his grandfather and his father in whittling away big sticks as the family gathered around sharing stories. John carved various objects for years before he finally picked the craft up as an artwork about 20 years ago.

A retired firefighter for the past eight years, John spent 28 years working for the Broadview Fire Department, where he eventually became Deputy Chief. Born in Alabama, John grew up in the gulf coast of Mississippi, where he left right out of high school to join the Navy. Following a love interest, who later became his first wife and mother of his two children, he ended up in Chicago, where he’s resided ever since. Married to his second wife since 1981, John joined the local Woodcarvers Club around 1995, where he’s been an active member and participant in their annual woodcarving competitions and various local art shows, winning first prize for several of his creations.~Shantal

Shantal is a creativity and transformational life consultant, event and program manager, Reiki Master practitioner, Raindrop Technique facilitator, and a holistic marketing consultant for individuals and organizations. Her passion is to empower individuals to transform their lives and nourish their creative dream-making process by providing creative and holistic “soul-lutions” for personal growth and healing. To learn more about Shantal, please visit her website: http://www.evoyoution.com.

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